Like many around the world, Vermont resident Benjy Renton spent much of March 2020 hunting through local grocery stores in search of disinfectant products.
Shortly after returning home from China, where he was participating in a study abroad program, the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to take hold in the U.S. and Renton wanted to be prepared.
“It was early on in the pandemic, and, like a lot of people, we were searching for wipes, rubbing alcohol, all sorts of disinfectants. We couldn’t really find them in the supermarket, but wanted to have a couple in stock,” Renton told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday from his home in Vermont.
“This was back at the time where everyone was disinfecting their groceries… so we thought we needed them.”
At the time, rumours of potential lockdowns and the declaration of a pandemic were unnerving enough to spark a shortage in toilet paper and disinfectants, such as hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and disinfectant wipes.
Turning to the internet, Renton lucked out after discovering the U.S.-based supply company W.B. Mason was still taking orders, even though it didn’t have the items in stock. So, he placed an order for a spray bottle, two bottles of Purell, and four canisters of Clorox wipes with the understanding that there would be a shipping delay.
The spray bottle (which he notes has never been used) arrived in a week. Soon after, the hand sanitizer appeared. But the wipes never showed up – until Thursday.
“To be honest I completely forgot about it,” Renton laughed.
“We never actually used the two canisters that we had at home already, because I think we were interested in conserving them and there was no reason to use most of the products we had bought.
Like most people, we have wild amounts of sanitizer and all of these products.”
CTVNews.ca has contacted W.B. Mason for comment on the delayed order.
He notes that the spray bottle, purchased with the intention of using it as another form of disinfectant, was never used. Now that he finally has his coveted Clorox wipes in hand, he says “I’m going to have to figure out what to do with them.”
A year into the pandemic, the era of panic buying may be over, but supply shortages still exist thanks to consumer habits during the first and second wave.
In December, disinfectant wipe manufacturer Clorox warned their products may be in short supply until mid-2021 as demand continues to outstrip supply. And at many Canadian retailers, buying limits still exist on things like Lysol wipes.
Renton notes that while a shipment of disinfectant wipes now seems unneeded, he still finds it strange to see people marking the one year anniversary of lockdowns.
“I remember, I think it was a year ago today, we had a party on campus and there was a giant bowl of chips or popcorn, and I didn’t touch it,” he said. “I wasn’t eating from the bowl and everyone thought I was crazy… it’s funny to look back on that now.”